Atrial fibrillation: Beyond drug therapies

Published: April, 2006

Medications are the first treatment for atrial fibrillation, but if drugs don't do the job, there are other options.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart's upper chambers (the atria) race or quiver instead of keeping a normal rhythm. The symptoms include lightheadedness, fatigue, and an erratic or racing heartbeat (palpitations). It's the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia, affecting some 2.2 million Americans. Unlike ventricular fibrillation, a dysfunction of the heart's main pumping chambers, atrial fibrillation usually isn't immediately life-threatening. But as doctors learn more about it, they're seeing a greater need for treatment.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »